For about seven years Kirsten Agresta Copely And Marc Copely lived in a one-bedroom shared apartment in Midtown West, well located near the theater district. They were frustrated with their 700 square feet of space – but for reasons you don’t usually hear.
“It’s not big when you have three harps,” Kirsten said.
Her husband — a singer-songwriter-producer who broke out with “Midnight Run,” sung by Willie Nelson for the 2012 film “Lawless” — traveled back and forth to Nashville.
So they moved to a two-story house in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tennessee, where “we could get a yard and a dog and build a life,” Marc said.
But then they kept traveling to New York. They missed the city and their friends. After seven years in Tennessee, they decided to return. That was two years ago.
Their most important criterion for a house: a proper recording studio, since the two of them record their own projects. Kirsten has just released an album of her compositions, “Aquamarine,” and is preparing for her position as solo harpist Radio City Christmas Spectacle with the Rockettes, whose season is just two months away.
Marc currently plays banjo, guitar and mandolin in the orchestra of the pun-rich musical “Peeled off” On Broadway. “The whole thing starts with funk banjo,” he said. “The musical is hilarious.”
After looking at a dozen homes in and around Bushwick, Brooklyn, they bought the only one that was right. Their house is a nondescript two-family townhouse from the early 20th century with 1,200 square feet on each floor. It has been renovated and is ready to move into. What attracted them most was the large basement, ripe for a recording studio.
A little over two years ago, they paid $1.37 million and got to work. They call home”Casa Copely.”
The main task was soundproofing.
“We were crazy about building it,” Marc said. With the help of a friend who designs recording studios, they ripped out the drywall in the basement and started over.
“We started with a layer of this stuff made from recycled jeans – I think it’s four inches thick,” Marc said. (Denim is known for its sound-absorbing properties.)
“We used something called QuietRock,” a type of drywall, “and a product called Peacemaker, which is a rubbery stuff.”
The walls are more than 30 cm thick to be as welcoming as possible (and to contain the sound so as not to disturb the neighbors).
“My music is a delicate mix of new age and ambient,” said Kirsten. “You have to be dead quiet to take it in. If there are noises from neighbors, sirens or anything else, it will show up on the recording.”
They also added acoustic panels to reduce echo. The door to the basement is also heavy and sits close to the ground.
There was a separate small room in the basement, just right for a control room. The couple also has a mix of vintage and modern outboard gear.
Back in Tennessee they had a home studio – but now they have a professional studio. They work there almost every day. Friends sometimes use it too. “The only thing I can’t do is a full orchestra or a big string session,” Marc said.
One disadvantage is the wooden floor on the ground floor, which creaks. The creak, even if it is weak, can be picked up by a sensitive microphone. So when one of them is recording, the other avoids going on the floor or goes to the top floor.
The living spaces include a small additional room on the main level that is set up as a harp studio. That’s where these three harps live now.
The couple also owns two pianos: a Steinway piano in the living room and a Steinway grand piano in the recording studio. This is what Kirsten grew up with in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Her musical mother had a small harp, and little Kirsten loved it.
Marc, originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, has a collection of vintage string instruments scattered around the studio and various rooms. His Gretsch drums are from the 1950s.
On the top floor, currently set up as a four-bedroom apartment, the pair have set up one bedroom as a gym and another as a library/art/TV room. At some point they might combine the two.
Your Bushwick neighborhood is near the Myrtle-Wyckoff stop on the L train. “The neighborhood is still pretty old-fashioned,” Marc said. “There are a lot of families who have been here for 50 or 60 years and it’s super multicultural, which is a big plus.”
They take their rescue dog, Argos — a mountain-Lab mix — to Irving Square Park, a few blocks away.
“The same people go there with the same dogs every day,” Kirsten said. “We have a group chat where we can share information and ask questions about who has which vet. We hang out there in the morning. We have friends we would never have met otherwise.”
During morning off-leash time, dogs take up much of the park, although plans for a proper dog run are in the works. “It’s funny,” Marc said, “how that dog that hangs in the morning has become the center of our universe.”